Monday, June 23, 2014

Drink Pink: Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé 2013

Cornertone Cellars’ managing partner, Craig Camp, has some strong feelings about wine being being pink.  He writes, “Just because you’re pink does not mean you’re a rosé.”  He cites White Zinfandel as a case in point.  A great place to start your wine journey, he muses, but the sweet, sappy flavor of many White Zins leaves him colder than a half bottle of Sutter Home in the back of the fridge.  “Unfortunately, because it’s pink (or kind of pink anyway) too many people think that all pink wine is sweet plonk.  Also, it’s a problem, as you can actually make a lovely real rosé from zinfandel.”

Camp goes on to talk about the saignée method of making rosé wine.  This is how many rosés are made, by bleeding off the juice from the grapes, leaving a more concentrated red wine behind.  This type of rosé is a winemaking byproduct, useful in cool regions mostly.  Camp says, “The downside of producing a pink wine in this manner is that you are harvesting your grapes at ideal ripeness levels for red wine, but not for pink wine. When done in a warm climate you get the candied flavors, higher alcohols and odd neon colors that you see in so many pink wines.”

So what's so great about great rosé?  They know a little bit about the pink stuff in the south of France, and Camp tips his hand about the inspiration for Stepping Stone's Corallina rosé.  "Real rosé wines," he writes, are "made in the classic tradition of Bandol and Tavel.  Vineyards are selected to be for rosé from the start and farmed to create ideal fruit for this type of wine.  The grapes are picked when the flavors are fully ripe, but you don’t have to wait for the skin tannins to ripen like you would when making red wine. This means you can pick at higher acids and lower sugars that will give you a balanced, elegant and complex rosé.  The best of these real rosé wines then spend a short time on the lees in mature oak barrels to broaden flavors and develop a rich, creamy texture.  Such a wine is our Cornerstone Corallina Napa Valley Syrah Rosé.”

Cornerstone winemaker Jeff Keene got some great grapes to work with - 100% Syrah from the Crane Ranch Vineyard on the west side of Napa Valley's Oak Knoll District.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and saw five months aging on the lees (in contact with the spent yeast cells) in neutral French oak.  Only 417 cases were produced and alcohol is a restrained 13.1% abv.  The beautiful label art is called “Wine Dance,” by the talented Janet Ekholm.

Corallina is tinted that color between coral and orange that is sometimes called salmon.  Bushel baskets of strawberries and cherries are on the expressive nose, as fresh as spring.  There is a green streak running through the fruit aromas like a big, crisp stem.  That's thanks to the whole cluster pressing of the grapes, stems and all.  A hint of spice rounds out an exemplary sniffing experience.

The wine feels great in the mouth, full and rich, with perfect acidity.  To say Corallina is flavorful is to cheat the wine of the praise due it.  This is one Syrah rosé in which the Syrah really shows up.  Strawberry and raspberry are in the forefront, but there is a beautiful hint of what I can only call a floral taste.  I've never tasted flowers, but this is what I imagine they would taste like.  Citrus and savory notes round out a palate whose complexity will make some red wines green with envy.  Pair it with something pretty - like a nice piece of salmon.

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